Kinky Boots (2005) / Comedy-Drama
MPAA Rated: PG-13 for sexual references and language
Running Time: 107 min.
Cast: Joel Edgerton, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Sarah-Jane Potts, Jemima Rooper, Nick Frost
Director: Julian Jarrold
Screenplay: Geoff Deane, Tim Firth
Chiwetel Ejiofor (Melinda and Melinda, Love Actually) is fast becoming one of the finest actors working today, and if you want proof as to his talent, look no further than his masterful performance in Kinky Boots. Certainly, he's not one that you'd think would make a believable woman, no matter how much make-up or sexy outfits you put on him, but he makes it work, and work very well. Earlier this year, Ejiofor delivered the most menacing performance in a film this year, as the ruthless gangster in Four Brothers, and was just as convincing. Can you imagine Marlon Brando, Al Pacino, Robert De Niro, or any of the other actors that have been menacing gangsters also singing and dancing in drag and doing it well? Understatement: Ejiofor is good.
Joel Edgerton (King Arthur, The Hard Word) stars as Charlie Price, the heir to a Northampton shoe company known for making conservative shoes for men for the past few generations. Taking over the company means putting his future plans on hold, not only for his career, but also in his relationship with his wife-to-be, Nicola (Rooper, A Sound of Thunder). Making matters worse, the company is struggling to make it financially, resulting in layoffs and cost-cutting measures that make the future look bleak. Charlie knows that to stay alive, he's going to have to cater to a niche market. Enter Lola, aka Simon (Ejiofor), a popular local drag queen that wows audiences in the clubs. Charlie's desperate idea is to make sexy women's shoes that can support a man's weight, opening up a market for drag queens and transvestites to be able to wear sexy shows with thin high heels.
Clearly, Ejiofor's performance makes this movie work, because with most other actors, the exploitative nature of the character of Lola would have been too silly to ever believe or care about. Instead of laughing at this very eccentric person, we sympathize with him, as he shows great strength and courage, while also very vulnerable and shy underneath.
As far as the rest of the film, it's the kind of feel-good movie that seems to get released every couple of years in Great Britain, whereby a shocking new thing becomes the sensation on the street, although with popularity comes embarrassment to the participants. We saw this sort of formula before in movies like The Full Monty and Calendar Girls, and Kinky Boots sticks very close to the game plan. It should come as no surprise to see screenwriter Tim Firth attached to this project, as he also co-wrote the aforementioned Calendar Girls, and also Blackball, which was about an uncouth bowls player that shocks the stereotypically stuffy, conservative British sensibilities.
There aren't many surprises here, but it is well made, with solid performances and a few funny moments. If you like the racy underdog stories mentioned in the last paragraph, it's a safe bet that you're going to like this one.
©2005 Vince Leo